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From Bangladesh Corespondent Rezwan…
You cannot leave the South Asia region out of the picture as with nearly twenty three percent of the world’s population, events in this region apply an enormous impact on the international system. Global Voices covered some of these events from a citizen media perspective. Let us review the popular posts of 2010 from this region.
Freedom Of Expression and Censorship:
The Pakistani blogosphere entered into a huge debate on the creation of a Facebook page calling for creation of cartoons of prophet Mohammad on May 20. The situation got worse when a Lahore high-court slammed a ban of the entire Facebook domain and the netizens protested against the blanket ban. The government changed this decision later and promised to monitor popular websites including Google, Youtube, Facebook, Hotmail which could be posting blasphemous content objectionable to Muslims.
At the same time Bangladesh also temporarily banned Facebook. The official statement mentioned that the site had been blocked for hosting anti-religious and pornographic contents. But some bloggers felt that the ban was imposed mainly because obscene caricatures of the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition (both female) were being shared by some users.
In India there had been eight murders and 20 serious attacks on RTI activists in the past year. Amit Jethwa, a prominent environmentalist and Right to Information (RTI) activist, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen in July after he had filed a public interest litigation in the Gujarat High Court naming a member of parliament.
India’s cyber law has been subjected to controversy because of its misuse. A government employee from Kerala got arrested for forwarding an email joke about the election debacle of the ruling party to a few friends.
Beating two boys in front of police and an enthusiastic crowd. Screenshot from YouTube Video
Pakistanis were in shock as the news and a video of the brutal mob-lynching of two teenage brothers were aired in local media on 22nd of August, 2010. The gang rape of a trainee nurse at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) also triggered widespread protests.
The Blasphemy law in Pakistan had been criticized and questioned by human rights activists because it had more often been used as a tool to spread violence and incite fear specifically among the minorities. An example of this manipulation of the law is the case of Aasia bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death on the charges of Blasphemy.
In Sri Lanka, Sarath Fonseka, the opposition candidate who was competing with the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 6th Presidential Election had been arrested by the military police and was jailed later.
After many protests the Bangladeshi ready-made garments workers secured a significant hike in the minimum wages.
After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India encountered a major terrorist attack in February, 2010 when a bomb blast at a restaurant popular with tourists in India’s western city of Pune, Maharashtra killed 9 people and left 57 people injured.
Meanwhile Pakistan had been rocked by many suicide bombs and terrorist attacks in 2010.
However one positive thing we found that many of the Pakistani bloggers rejected this religious hatred.
2010 was particularly a bad year for Pakistan in terms of disasters. Pakistan faced its worst flood in the past 80 years, as in July-August 2010 heavy monsoon rains have caused severe flooding on the Indus river plains, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, lower Punjab and parts of Balochistan. The floods have claimed more than 2000 lives and about 20 million people, one-tenth of the Pakistan population, have suffered and most of them became homeless. The government response to tackle the situation was widely criticized.
On the contrary, it was heartening to see that common people, especially many youths of Pakistan travelled to the affected areas to help the victims. And more so Pakistani netizens were in forefront as they made their actions visible though live blogs Twitter, images and videos. Several Global Voices authors based in Pakistan including Awab Alvi, Faisal Kapadia, Sana Saleem and Salman Latif reported from the ground.
View of #Islamabad crash site from rooftop. Image from Twitpic by Rezhasan
In July Pakistan suffered its worst ever air disaster when a flight from Karachi of a private airliner crashed into the Margalla Hills in Islamabad, killing 152 people. In May an Air-India Express plane arriving from Dubai had crashed in Mangalore, south India, killing most of the people on board and netizens were outraged by the fact that the short runway was too dangerous for larger planes.
India had its share of oil spill disaster as in August a container carrier collided with another marine vessel close to Mumbai shore causing a huge oil spill, which threatened the flora and fauna of the nearby beaches.
2010 was a turbulent year for Nepal in the political arena. In February pro monarchy groups demanding restoration of constitutional monarchy forced its capital to shut down. By May the maoists, who has a strong position in the parliament, launched a nation wide indefinite protest demanding that the incumbent government be dissolved. The government succumbed to the pressure and the Prime Minister Madhab Kumar Nepal resigned on the 30th of June, 2010. Nepal plunged into a leadership vacuum as five rounds of election in parliament failed to produce a clear winner as the new Prime Minister in August. There was no end of this political stalemate in sight till the end of the year.
In June the whole Cabinet of the government of the Maldives submitted their resignation to President Mohamed Nasheed, on the grounds that their work was severely restricted by an opposition-led Parliament. Bloggers provided logical opinions on how to solve this crisis.
After three years of respite Hartal, a South Asian form of strike action, came back in Bangladesh as the opposition alliance took the streets to to press for its 11-point demand to the government.
Protests in Kashmir turned violent since June after the security forces killed a number of youths. When the Jammu and Kashmir Government banned the SMS service to stop the flow of information and rumors, many news outlets used Facebook to reach netizens. The Indian blogosphere discussed about scopes for reconciliation and peace.
The incumbent President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa pre-poned the presidential election scheduled in 2011 presumably to harness his immense popularity after defeating the Tamil Tigers last year. With the opposittion candidate Sarath Fonseka behind bars and amidst low turn out, the victory of Rajapaksa was predictable.
This year India hosted the Commonwealth Games for the first time and its plan to showcase its new status as a global power was marred by criticism and controversy. In the end India successfully completed the games.
Bhutanese women created the stirrings of their first feminist movement of sorts when they took on a traditionally male dominated sport Khuru (game of darts).
2010 was an eventful year for the South Asia region. Please stay tuned in 2011 for the stories seen through the eyes of the netizens. If you would like to contribute to widen our coverage across different language blogospheres in this region please contact us.
First posted in Global Voices